Emory University, September 2007
Elizabeth "Betse" Fox-Genovese, professor of history at Emory University, died on January 2, 2007, in Atlanta, Georgia, following a prolonged and courageous struggle with multiple sclerosis. She was 65 years old.
Fox-Genovese was educated at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris and Bryn Mawr College, where she received a BA, and Harvard University where she received a MA and a PhD in history. A prolific scholar and devoted teacher, Fox-Genovese was a member of the history department first at the University of Rochester from 1973 to 1980 and then at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She joined Emory University in 1986 as professor of history and founding director of the Institute for Women's Studies. At the institute, she founded one of the first doctoral programs in women's studies in the United States. In 1988 she was appointed as the Eléonore Raoul Professor of Humanities, an honor she held for the remainder of her long and distinguished career.
Into all areas, Fox-Genovese poured an incomparable passion, penetrating mind and intellectual clarity. A scholar of amazing breadth and depth, she is the author of numerous books and many articles on a wide range of topics including political economy, slavery and the Old South, women's history, feminism, religion, and literature. Her first book, The Origins of Physiocracy: Economic Revolution and Social Order in Eighteenth-Century France (1976), is still highly regarded by French historians. Her path-breaking and eloquent study Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (1988) gained widespread recognition as a major contribution to women's history and southern history. The book received the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize of the Southern Association for Women Historians and was named an outstanding book of the year by the Augustus Meyer Foundation for the Study of Human Rights.
Fox-Genovese wrote a number of scholarly works in collaboration with her husband, the eminent historian, Eugene Genovese, most notably The Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism (1983) and The Mind of the Master Class, published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, a commanding study of the intellectual and moral worldview of southern slaveholders. She and Gene founded the journal Marxist Perspectives in the late 1970s, and two decades later were the founding inspiration behind the conservative Historical Society, the journal for which Fox-Genovese served as editor from its first number to 2006. Fox-Genovese also authored scholarly and popular books and essays about contemporary feminism and women's issues, including Feminism without Illusions (1991) and Feminism is not the Story of My Life (1996), which established her reputation as a leading intellectual of the conservative women's movement.
Fox-Genovese devoted the same energy and commitment to teaching as she did to research and writing, and was known as a passionate mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students. A tough critic and compassionate advocate, she directed more than 40 dissertations by graduate students in the fields of history, literature, women's studies, and religion.
Awards and fellowships came to Fox-Genovese from such prestigious institutions as the Fulbright Foundation, the American Bar Association, the Rockefeller Foundation, and, of course, the National Endowment for the Humanities, where she later served as a member of the Governing Council. Our nation honored her, and through her, Emory University, in 2003 when President George W. Bush presented Fox-Genovese with the National Humanities Medal at the White House.
Besides her husband, Betsey is survived by her sister, Rebecca MacMillan Fox, her brother, Edward Whiting Fox Jr., and five nieces and nephews.